I remember seeing Breck Eisner’s (The Last Witch Hunter) The Crazies in theaters all the way back in 2010. I recall being impressed with it over so many others I saw around that time. For me, there was no streaming or the on demand varieties we have today; if I wanted to see a new horror movie, it would be at the theater. Now, having taken that viewing (among many) for granted, revisiting the film now was an entirely new experience through more mature and aware eyes.
In 2010, The Crazies was a cool zombie-adjacent remake of George A. Romero’s (Night Of The Living Dead) 1973 film of the same name. In the ripe beginning of 2021, The Crazies is a viral lesson that is about more than a deadly infection… so much more.
Anarchy reigns when an unknown toxin turns the peaceful citizens of Ogden Marsh into bloodthirsty lunatics. In an effort to contain the spread of the infection, authorities blockade the town and use deadly force to keep anyone from getting in or out. Now trapped among killers, Sheriff Dutten and his wife and two companions must band together to find a way out before madness and death overtake them.” Starring Timothy Olyphant (Justified), Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill), Danielle Panabaker (The Flash), and Joe Anderson (The Ruins), The Crazies may have been beyond its time, but it is unfortunately very timely for anyone revisiting or seeing it for the first time today.
We Know These People
What can happen to a population of people in just two days? Ogden Marsh is a simple farm town painted as the epitome of small town life. Average, normal, and steady, the place that begins with a few roads filled with average people and average problems turns into an isolated quarantine and eventual shambled blaze over the course of just 48 hours. When The Crazies starts, the characters all know each other and their respective families, but as the film progresses we see both the breakdown and strengths of those relationships. As Sheriff David Dutten and his wife, Doctor Judy Dutten, find themselves resisting both military control and a vicious virus that has infected their town, the two lead an effort of survival that tests their humanity and morality.
With Ogden Marsh sealed off and the military eliminating any carriers of the virus, the people begin to panic as they turn on their adversaries and on themselves. The Crazies, referring to those effected by the virus, have infiltrated their streets, their shops, and even their home, crushing Judy and David’s ordinary lives and dreams they once had, including raising the child that Judy is carrying. As the narrative moves rapidly from splendor to horror, The Crazies becomes an equally thrilling and heartbreaking portrait of small town America gone awry.
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“[…] The Crazies is a viral lesson that is about more than a deadly infection… so much more.“
Though The Crazies is filled with tension, action, and a decent application of gore without hitting a gross-out factor, Eisner is sure to focus on the quaint setting transformed into bedlam with a hint of style. Mixing great, powerful shots of isolation, mass quartering, and devastation in with the story, the film provides a genuine version of a town overtaken and divided. As the townspeople suffer at the hands of militarized ignorance and secrecy, sides are quickly formed. Using interesting frames and observing perspectives, Eisner allows viewers to observe the destruction of normal life and the progressive deconstruction of civilization as it happens in a relatable microcosm. Helpless, but determined with everyone they know being dead or infected, David and Judy realize that their slice of hometown heaven is gone forever.
Following the two on their journey, we see the town slowly turn into a group of crazed vessels turning on and killing one another. Our attention is consistently drawn to the desolation of Ogden Marsh, driving home the eerie realization that something so terrifying could happen anywhere to anyone and that it could happen overnight.
Initiate Containment Protocol
When the lines “What would you prefer? A global pandemic?” are yelled, any film is terrifyingly relevant to the truly unfortunate times in which we find ourselves. As a strange airborne sickness spreads through Ogden Marsh, thanks to a contaminated drinking supply shared by the people of the town, the process in which the area is quarantined, elevated temperatures are checked, and the infected are separated from the group was a way to ignite the film’s narrative in 2010, but it happens to reflect our current global circumstances as we encounter the tremendous outbreak of COVID-19.
The testing, screening, withholding of information, and even the civilian hostility in The Crazies tragically mirrors our contagious climate by saturating the story in an overbearing military intervention and bloodthirsty masses literally killing off everyone, not just the sick in a metaphorical viral epidemic. As Eisner plays on the hopeless isolation of the town and characters, viewers can easily identify with the anxieties and fears of David and Judy who struggle to maintain the frontline of their township and people they care about while also staying alive themselves.
“[Breck] Eisner is sure to focus on the quaint setting transformed into bedlam with a hint of style.“
Aside from the frightening comparisons to the real pandemic we are living through, The Crazies provides a bunch of solid scares with the intention of entertaining through informing. Technically a zombie flick in its own right, the virus causes The Crazies to go from simple flu-like symptoms into a catatonic stupor and evolving into a murderous state where they attack and kill those around them. Trapped in a large-scale infection, The Crazies kicks in as viewers see what average people will do when they’re scared, uninformed, and restricted.
Aside from its picturesque opening, the feeling that something is terribly wrong starts from the moment a man walks out into a baseball field with a shotgun. The dread immediately lingers and intensity rolls out steadily as David’s suspicions catch on and the contagion expands. The film is peppered in chilling moments and brutal kills, even managing to make a car wash treacherous. Appropriate shocks and some surprisingly well done jump scares allow the 2-hour runtime to fly by with fluid pacing just as quickly as disease and elimination courses through the town.
That’s The Balance Of Power
It was scary seeing this whole scenario play out on the big screen a decade ago. However, watching a similar scenario play out now in real life is a lot scarier than anything I’ve ever seen in a theater. One notion The Crazies holds onto, in all of its carnage and brutality, is that loyalty, love, and humanity are stronger than any disease. We can only hope that if the negative events of the film reflect our conditions, then the positive ones will ultimately prevail in reality too.
Commenting further on upholding responsibility beyond local official denial, the chaotic outbreak is traced back to an engineered mechanism meant to destabilize enemy populations. As the armed soldiers become weaponized through underground government orders, viewers see the initial surveillance and ultimate termination of the town as a result of their mistake. The control and chaos created by the invasion of the soldiers adds an extra factor of alarm and desperation, giving The Crazies a traditional trope of duty undermined by brutality.
“Aside from the frightening comparisons to the real pandemic we are living through, The Crazies provides a bunch of solid scares with the intention of entertaining through informing.“
As the soldiers begin shooting and burning people at will, their violent mission is clear and almost scarier than the actual virus itself. The forces we trust and assume will protect citizens suddenly become intrusive secondary villains, heightening levels of fear which pushes our protagonist and company toward escape over cooperation. Perhaps a little transparency about the situation would have gone a longer way? Perhaps not?
Breck Eisner’s The Crazies is currently streaming on Pluto TV. For a fun double-feature, also check out George A. Romero’s original streaming on Tubi… or just watch the news.